The past two weeks have seen some of the worst that the internet has to offer, as well as some of the best. Before we dive into this proverbial ocean of dread, I'd like to caution everyone that none of this is about a specific person and no one should be the sole target of anyone's scorn. It is also important to note that headstrong affiliation toward any cause usually end up blinding the recipient to the opposition's message, choosing instead to focus their backlash on the person, rather than the argument. In order to avoid just that, let us talk about the big picture and its many facets, one which has reared its ugly head just a few days ago, when virtually the entirety of the gaming press independently published articles pushing the same, extremely questionable agenda.
I am not going to link to the articles in question as to not provide any needless traffic for them, so here's a nice summary in image format.
If you've been keeping track of the recent events you will undoubtedly have seen just how polarized the participants of the argument are. It is difficult to remain objective and neutral in a time like this, but regardless of one's personal beliefs, the evidence from all sides points to one simple fact: nepotism and corruption has been rampant in game journalism (and beyond) for a very long time now.
A prime example of this sweeping statement are the articles you've just seen. Up until reading these I was perfectly happy to identify myself as a gamer. Suddenly major gaming outlets tell me it's a dirty word. The unified agenda of these articles as well the extreme coincidence of them being posted on the same day, by websites and people all allegedly having part in a grand case of journalistic corruption makes me question myself—just how much straight up indoctrination is enough to rip the blindfolds off of the eyes of the average person? I would surprise no one by yelling "GAMING JOURNALISM IS CORRUPT OMG," but the fact that everyone would just blink for a second, look at me as if I'm trying to reinvent the wheel, shrug and move on is what really gets me.
Now, do not get me wrong—I, along with everyone else in the world, am guilty of the very same thing to one degree or another, whether the subject matter is politics, movies, or, in this case, gaming. However, most of us subconsciously assume that there is a line that, if crossed, will so obviously rile everyone up to fight for the good cause, yet nothing of the sort ever happens. Has that line not yet been crossed? Is the appearance of those articles not an indication of a much deeper agenda to "breed sheep" or to segregate the gaming population? Are the events of the past two weeks just a passing fad, or just the entrance to the rabbit hole which is the corruption of video game journalism?
All of these questions seem like your over-the-counter doomsday talk, but it would be foolish to think that these things don't get out of hand—microtransactions and mobile gaming are still searing hot examples of this. So yes, it is important to consider every facet of this scandal extremely carefully and avoid outright dismissing claims from anyone based only on their affiliation, i.e. avoid generalizing and lumping everyone under the same umbrella. Which ironically is exactly what the articles above did—portraying all gamers as essentially misogynist pigs, when you strip out all of the sweet talk.
In order to properly understand the weight of what has happened and is indeed still happening, we have to look at what started it all, or rather, what brought it to light. Enter The Fine Young Capitalists, a campaign that asks women specifically to present ideas for games they'd want to see made. The campaign guys will create pitches for them, the best game will be voted by the internet (voting is up on their page, go and do it!), and the best one will get made, with 8% of the profits going to the author and the rest going to charity. It's a wonderful idea that got unjustly blacklisted from Kotaku & Co. in wake of the recent events. Due to all of this it has gained virtually no publicity outside of the people actively involved in the current events. Shout out for those guys, they're doing something really amazing.
If you haven't been keeping up for the past few days you might wonder what about this campaign could have stirred up so much drama, and if that's the cause then congratulations, you are perfectly sane. The answer, as with most internet drama, is zealots, crazies. Radical feminists have unjustly attacked the TFYC campaign, cried wolf left and right, allegedly going as far as "doxxing" the author, and a lot of other nasty things. You might still wonder how this singular attack managed to cripple a campaign as much as it did. The answer is—so did everyone. People started digging, and what ensued is perhaps the biggest stain on game journalism in the past ten years. It goes without saying that both sides have both rational and radical snowflakes, but one would be a fool to take a stand for journalistic integrity in gaming and turn it into a gender war. I obviously don't have any issues with women in video games, or women in general, so to see major gaming outlets label me and pretty much all of my friends like that does stir up less-than-rational emotions.
That being said, upon even the slightest scrutiny it is painfully obvious that the fight for equality in video games has crashed through the "equality" mark and is heading straight for radicalitytown. Unfortunately, that vocal minority has a very easy time stealing the spotlight. Combine all of that with lies, deceit, victimization, alleged bribery, and worse, and you have yourself an extremely juicy drama at hand.
One must be extremely careful not to fall into that very trap, as doing so would just be stooping down to the same level as the people who started all of this in the first place, and they have the home advantage there. So instead let's divert our attention back to the very dangerous "gamers are dead" phrase and the cause behind it. If the allegations are true, then this would mean that the timing and agenda in the articles in question is everything but a coincidence. It would also completely obliterate any integrity that the offending sites might have had. After the initial wave of backlash, sites such as Kotaku and The Escapist both came out with perfunctory apologies and an "inquiry / adjustment of work ethics". But, as it usually goes with these things, the rabbit holes goes deeper.
By far the most prevalent over-arching topic among it all is journalistic integrity in game media. Kotaku and the likes have been the laughing stock in terms of journalistic integrity for years now, and yet they still rake in a tremendous amount of traffic and publicity, all because of it. Yet they're a festering ground for articles that blatantly call their target audience sexist pigs with varying degrees of subtlety. Honestly, it's sickening, and to stay silent any longer is something I wouldn't be able to forgive myself for, because I love gaming. I love playing games, I love reading about them, writing about them, discussing them, wearing them on shirts, posters, key chains...and given the fact that I make a living by developing video games, I obviously also like to make them. It gives me great pain to see that people who are in this not for the love of games, but rather the financial profit (or any other sort of benefit) with no regard for the long term consequences have taken such a foothold in the industry.
Again I hear a resounding "duh" among the audience for pointing out that there are evil people out to only make money, but this is worse than that, more vile. We've seen all of this play out on multiple occasions so many times now—the publishers become evil, we turn to mobile gaming as the future potential. It doesn't take long for mobile games to become worse than triple A, the remake of Dungeon Keeper being the most painful recent memory that comes to mind as an example. The last vestige of sanity thus remains within indie gaming, the place where people make games because they're good, not for the profit. A place where ideas can develop without censorship and where the only judges are the gamers themselves. It is, by all definitions, the most direct developer-to-consumer line, the purest form of community-driven organic game development, where we, the gamers, define what we want made.
As I said above, most of the stuff being posted has not been proven beyond reasonable doubt—but the thing is, it doesn't have to be. It doesn't matter that much at this point who wins and who loses; the fact of the matter is that these events transpiring in the first place have turned the indie (and the closely tied journalistic) scene into a soap opera. The effects of this will be felt for years to come. I will not be able to take seriously anyone who call themselves indie for a very long time, maybe never. Gaming as a whole has taken a giant leap backward in its efforts to be recognized as an art form by the "outside" world, and it makes me sick.
Kotaku & Co. aren't reporting on it, despite it being one of the most prominent ongoing stories in the gaming community for the past two weeks. Most people are too afraid to take a stand in fear of backlash; yet being silent is the biggest danger of all, as it allows the people who are pushing their agendas above games to succeed in that, and before long it'll be microtransactions and online passes all over again. Not just that, but the discussion is being actively silenced on many prominent websites, making it even more important to talk about it. Also very important to note is that the images provided in this article only scratch the surface of the entire discussion. People have been fired, banned, sued, threatened, dragged through the mud, both just and unjust. Thus, I implore of you—call them out, contact them and their advertisers, make it loud and clear that we, the gamers, will not lie down and just take these insults and attempts at segregation silently. We will not let people who do not care about games dictate their future. We are gamers, and we care.